Baroness Blower Portrait Baroness Blower (Lab)
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My Lords, it is a pleasure to speak in this Second Reading debate on a Bill which is so urgently needed to create fairness and coherence for workers.

As the TUC has said, our legal framework for workers’ rights is not fit for the 21st century. Indeed, it has not really been fit since well before the turn of this century. My noble friend Lord Hendy has outlined with clarity and precision the aim and intention of the Bill, which would of course leave unaltered the arrangements for those who are genuinely self-employed on business on their own account, either through a genuine personal service company or as professionals. However, it would address the situation of so many workers who find themselves in so-called self-employment—bogus self-employment—which leaves them with none of the statutory rights, such as they are, enjoyed by employees.

In the context of building back better, in the period beyond the worst phases of the pandemic—which is where we hope we at least find ourselves—we must surely want to ensure that all workers are entitled to at least the minimum wage, paid holidays and protection from unfair dismissal. Building back better must also of course mean building back fairer. The Status of Workers Bill would give millions of workers in insecure and precarious situations across England, Wales and Scotland greater rights by the creation of this single-worker status and equivalence therefore with employees. The claim is sometimes made—as has been referred to by other noble Lords—that bogus self-employment is about flexibility for the worker. Unscrupulous, bad employers might well make this case, but good employers can and do negotiate flexible working arrangements without recourse to eliminating workers’ rights. That should be the position for all workers.

Much more can and should be said about the range and number of workers—the TUC calculates 3.6 million—whose working lives would be improved by the Bill. I look forward to speaking during the later stages of its passage through this House and I offer it my full support.